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NIOSH eNews – November 2010


Volume 8 Number 7 November 2010


From the Director’s Desk

John Howard, M.D.
Director, NIOSH
November eNews 2010

Fighting the Flu

Like an uninvited visitor, seasonal influenza comes knocking every fall. The flu season traditionally begins in October and usually peaks in January and February.

The latest CDC analysis estimates that 23,607 deaths associated with seasonal flu occurred annually in the U.S. from 1976 to 2007 (
. On average, more than 200,000 people are hospitalized annually in the U.S. for respiratory and circulatory conditions associated with seasonal flu (

As these numbers suggest – not even counting the personal misery of being ill with the flu, and the costs and disruptions associated with lost work-time when employees have to stay home sick – seasonal flu should not be taken lightly. All of us should know and follow the well-established practices for preventing transmission and avoiding infection.

A new NIOSH web page on seasonal influenza was posted last month at /niosh/topics/flu/ . This page is designed to help employers, workers, health professionals, and others to manage the current flu season in the workplace, and to stay current with evolving scientific and medical knowledge. I hope you will visit this page, bookmark it, and return to it over the flu season as it is updated and expanded.

One goal of the new page is to serve as a portal to current recommendations for reducing the risks of flu, including the simple practices of hand washing, covering coughs and sneezes, and getting immunized. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone over 6 months of age get a flu vaccine. The 2010-2011 vaccine will protect against three different flu viruses: an H3N2 virus, an influenza B virus and the H1N1 virus that caused so much illness last season.

The new page on seasonal flu is also intended to highlight current gaps in our knowledge about flu, the research needed to fill those gaps and resolve present scientific uncertainties, and the contributions being made by NIOSH toward meeting those needs. From last year’s experience with 2009 H1N1 influenza, we know that many questions remain about the ways in which the flu virus may be transmitted, and the efficacy of different types of personal protective devices.

Bringing more certainty to those issues will help all of us to better control seasonal flu as it returns next fall, the fall after that, and on into the future. This is especially important for understanding and addressing the needs of health care workers who, as a group, are likely to face the greatest and most sustained exposures to the flu virus. Other workforces outside of healthcare also face the challenges associated with seasonal influenza. NIOSH and other researchers are evaluating risks in other workforces, but general information on minimizing risks of seasonal influenza are applicable to all workers.

Moreover, what we learn will help us better prepare for the threat of new or mutated strains of the flu virus. As we saw from the emergence of the 2009 H1N1 flu, the prospect of new strains of flu sweeping the U.S. is not a question of “if.” It is a question of “when.” The more we can resolve current uncertainties, the easier it will be for employers and workers to implement swift and effective preventive strategies when novel and potentially even more virulent strains appear.

I hope that you will find our web page on seasonal flu useful, and that you will make it a priority to help keep yourself, your loved ones, and your colleagues safe and healthy this fall and winter.

NIOSH to Exhibit at the APHA 138th Annual Meeting & Exposition

NIOSH will be exhibiting at the CDC Booth #1760 at the upcoming American Public Health Association (APHA) annual meeting, November 6-10, in Denver, Colorado. Stop by the exhibit and learn more about CDC and NIOSH. A draft agenda of the occupational health and safety section is available at . You can also follow us on twitter ( for updates (#apha10).

Deepwater Horizon Response Update

New Report Available on Deepwater Horizon Response
The seventh report in a series of interim reports from the NIOSH health hazard evaluation program of Deepwater Horizon response workers was released in October. /niosh/topics/oilspillresponse/gulfspillhhe.html.

Using Lessons Learned from World Trade Center Response
One of the lessons learned from 9/11-the need for compiling a roster of responders as a resource for long-term health studies-was applied in the response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, noted by NIOSH Director John Howard in a Huffington Post article posted September 30.

Recruiting Responders
Many stakeholders are interested in meeting the surveillance and research needs of the Deepwater Horizon response workers. To facilitate their efforts, NIOSH has established a policy for qualified researchers to recruit individuals included in the volunteer roster for participation in investigative studies. This policy balances the need for transparency and data utility against NIOSH’s responsibility to protect the privacy of the individuals on the roster. /niosh/topics/oilspillresponse/recruiting.html

NIOSH Update on Distracted Driving

A new NIOSH backgrounder focuses on hazards of distracted driving specifically related to workers (/niosh/updates/upd-10-05-10.html). NIOSH also offers a topic page on motor vehicle safety for workers (/niosh/topics/motorvehicle/).

Protecting Workers From What They Cannot See

In a September 29, interview with the New Haven (Connecticut) Independent, Chuck Geraci, coordinator of NIOSH’s nanotechnology research program, discusses the challenges of assessing potential occupational health and safety risks from infinitesimally tiny nanoparticles and NIOSH’s leadership in advancing new research to help do so.

Study Addresses Potential Effects of the Chemical BPA on Reproductive Health

Increasing levels of the chemical Bisphenol-A (BPA) in the urine were linked with lower sperm counts and other measures indicating impaired sperm quality among a cohort of male factory workers in China, a study posted online Oct. 29 by the journal Fertility & Sterility reported. The study was conducted by researchers at Kaiser Permanente and other institutions with NIOSH funding. The study adds to the scientific literature addressing the questions of potential effects of BPA on reproductive health.

Why Do Injuries Happen?

NIOSH and the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation announced in October an agreement for using workers’ compensation information in research to enhance safety practices. The agreement is intended to reduce workplace injuries and increase safety research in Ohio. /niosh/updates/upd-09-29-10.html

Newsletter Promotes Safety and Health for Workers On and Off the Job

NIOSH announced the October issue of “WorkLife”–the online newsletter of the NIOSH WorkLife program. This month’s issue includes a section on decreasing the risks of motor vehicle crashes and best practices of weight loss programs sponsored by employers.

Public Meeting on Respirator Standards and Regulations

NIOSH will hold a public meeting Thursday, December 9, 2010, at the Hyatt Regency Pittsburgh International Airport. This meeting will also be available via Live Meeting Conferencing. Topics include the NIOSH regulatory agenda for updating 42 CFR Part 84, standards development for CBRN combination unit respirators, and standards development for buddy breathing with a self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA). /niosh/npptl/resources/pressrel/letters/lttr-12092010.html

NIOSH Requests Public Comment

NIOSH requests comments on a technical resource to better protect first responders. The document for comment expands the 1995 method development and testing methods to monitor for gases and vapors. Laboratories, manufacturers, and consensus standard setting bodies use these documents.

NIOSH Lifting Guide Pioneers Recognized

The 54th Annual Human Factors and Ergonomics Society conference in September included a special session to recognize the original pioneering scientists who developed and authored the 1981 NIOSH Work Practices Guide for Manual Lifting (WPG) and to recognize a key event in the history of human factors and ergonomics science and practice. The session was opened by Dr. Thomas Waters, of NIOSH, who showcased the impact the WPG and revised NIOSH lifting equations have had on occupational safety and health research and practice community over the last 30 years. The seven developers/authors who were recognized included Drs. Donald Chaffin, Colin Drury, Stover Snook, M.M. Ayoub, Gary Herrin, Karl Kroemer, and Arun Garg. Original NIOSH staff who oversaw development of the 1981 WPG included Dr. Donald Badger and Mr. Dan Habes. For more information contact Tom Waters at

NIOSH Congratulates

RADM Dr. Boris D. Lushniak Appointed Deputy Surgeon General
U.S. Public Health Service Rear Admiral Boris D. Lushniak, MD, MPH, was recently appointed as the U.S. Deputy Surgeon General. During part of Dr. Lushniak’s extensive career he worked as an Epidemic Intelligence Service officer stationed at NIOSH where he was responsible for establishing an occupational skin disease research program.

Kathy Masterson Receives IRB Certification
Congratulations to Kathy Masterson, a NIOSH Human Subjects Review Board specialist who completed requirements on October 8 to become a certified Institutional Review Board (IRB) professional. Certified IRB professionals are tasked with ensuring that research projects conducted or supported by their institutions meet rigorous ethical standards and contain appropriate safeguards for human subjects. /niosh/pgms/HSRB/

News from Our Partners

Michigan Regulation Requires Healthcare-related Injury Reporting

To increase the capability to track preventable injuries and illnesses, the Michigan Department of Community Health promulgated regulations on September 27th to require healthcare providers and institutions to report injuries ( . The rules require reporting only if the state or a local health department asks for a specific condition to be reported, thus reducing the burden of reporting while still allowing public health to efficiently target its resources and programs.

AOEC Clinic Organizes Health Fair Addressing Health Risks Related to Diesel Exhaust

Dr. Robert Harrison of the Occupational and Environmental Health Clinic at the University of California, San Francisco, a member of the Association of Occupational and Environmental Clinics (AOEC) spearheaded efforts to help address health risks related to diesel exhaust among Port workers and families living near the Port of Oakland. A health fair was organized in response to a new report identifying an elevated cancer risk among truck drivers and that one in five West Oakland children living near the Port have asthma. The impact of the health fair extended beyond those who attended. Plans have been announced to develop a comprehensive truck management program, along with stakeholders, to reduce diesel pollution and improve the quality of life for people living and working in and around the Port.

CPWR’s New Report, Green and Healthy Jobs, Elevates Worker Safety as a Priority

Building and remodeling structures to make the planet healthy should not endanger the health and safety of the people doing the work or the health and safety of surrounding communities. This is the position Helen Chen, J.D., M.S., of The University of California at Berkeley’s Labor Occupational Health Program took when she began analyzing jobs created by “green construction” and the high-hazard construction work faced daily by those in the trades. Chen’s newly released report, Green and Healthy Jobs, examines the green jobs industry, categorizes green construction jobs, assesses the associated hazards to workers, and offers recommendations for elevating construction safety as a priority in the context of green building. This work was funded through a grant from CPWR-The Center for Construction Research and Training. CPWR is also the NIOSH-funded National Construction Center. The report can be found at

Commercial Fishing Vessel Safety Course Available November 6

A 10-hour fishing vessel safety and drill conductor course will be offered at the University of Alaska Southeast-Ketchikan campus on Saturday, November 6. The Alaska Marine Safety Education Association is offering this course, which meets the training requirements for commercial fishing vessels. It is available at no charge to commercial fishermen because of funding from NIOSH and the U.S. Coast Guard.

Health Hazard Evaluations (HHE)

HHE logo Assessment of Nitrous Oxide Exposure in a Pediatric Dentistry

The HHE Program evaluated pediatric dentistry employees’ exposure to nitrous oxide (N2O), which is administered to patients who need to relax prior to a dental procedure. Investigators found that some air samples had N2O concentrations above the NIOSH recommended exposure limit. Investigators recommended that the clinic’s ventilation system be improved, that scavenging systems be properly used and maintained to prevent overexposures, and that dentists be encouraged to adopt work practices that limit their exposures to the gas. /niosh/hhe/reports/pdfs/2005-0157-3110.pdf

Comparison of Mold Exposures Between Employees at a Severely Water-Damaged School and Employees at a School Without Significant Water Damage

The HHE Program evaluated a severely water-damaged school where employees reported difficulty breathing, chronic sinusitis, and immune system problems. As a comparison for the evaluation, investigators also evaluated a school around the same age that had no history of water damage or mold contamination. Investigators found that employees at the severely water-damaged school had a significantly higher prevalence of symptoms than employees at the comparison school. /niosh/hhe/reports/pdfs/2005-0135-3116.pdf

Skin and Respiratory Symptoms in Peanut Inspectors with Peanut Dust and Endotoxin Exposure

The HHE Program evaluated employees’ exposures in a peanut-grading operation. Investigators found endotoxin in air conditioner filter dust, peanut grading room air, and outdoor air. Peanut grading machines were found to be releasing dust indoors. Investigators recommended that peanut grading room dust be vented outdoors and that air conditioner filters be changed routinely. It was also recommended that employees be provided with NIOSH-approved N95 respirators and participate in a respiratory protection program. /niosh/hhe/reports/pdfs/2008-0052-3115.pdf

Evaluation of Exposures to Tuberculosis Among Immigration Employees

The HHE Program evaluated immigration and customs enforcement agents’ potential for transmission of tuberculosis (TB). Investigators found that most employees had direct contact with detainees every day and participated in job activities that place them at risk of acquiring TB infection. Investigators recommended that ventilation systems in detainee areas be changed to either a single-pass or a high-efficiency particulate air-filtered system and that ventilation systems be rebalanced to increase the amount and direction of air flow in detainee areas. Investigators also recommended annual TB training and testing for all employees. /niosh/hhe/reports/pdfs/2009-0074-0193-3114.pdf


NORA Liaison Committee Public Meeting Announced for January

The next National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA) Liaison Committee meeting, Partnerships to Advance the National Occupational Research Agenda, will be held January 26 in Washington, D.C. Attendees can also participate online. Individuals and national organizations will learn about and contribute to the progress of NORA.

NORA 2011 Symposium Call for Poster Abstracts

The call for poster abstracts has been announced for the NORA Symposium 2011: Achieving Impact through Research and Partnerships. The deadline for submission is March 9, 2011.

r2p Corner

r2p logo

NIOSH is collaborating with Discoveries and Breakthroughs Inside Science (DBIS) to develop a series of videos that feature its research efforts in science, engineering, and technology and that demonstrate impact. Two segments were recently broadcasted by DBIS and can be seen on subscribing television stations across the United States or by visiting the DBIS Web site. Warning: Power Tools Hurt Hands features research about the adverse effects of power tool vibration on the body ( and Saving Lives: Building a Better Face Mask features research on the best way to measure faces to advance the development of respirators to better fit the diversity of human face sizes and shapes ( To view the other DBIS videos featuring NIOSH research, visit or contact Fred Blosser ( for more information.

What’s new on the NIOSH Science Blog?

NIOSH and Electronic Health Records

In the clinical setting, the accurate diagnosis and management of work-related conditions is essential to an individual’s health. Electronic health records (EHR) can provide information to assist providers with evaluating the contribution and impact of work on health. In its just-released report, Reducing Environmental Cancer Risk, What We Can Do Now, the President’s Cancer Panel recommended that physicians routinely ask their patients about their previous and current work and that this information be incorporated into the medical record. Programming the EHR to store and display information about a person’s job history will facilitate this. Join the NIOSH Science Blog discussion on opportunities and challenges in occupational safety and health related to EHR. /niosh/blog/

Communication Products

Let’s Talk About the Flu

The new NIOSH topic page, “Seasonal Influenza (Flu) in the Workplace,” provides employers and workers with resources to control the spread of flu and current scientific research findings on flu transmission and prevention. /niosh/topics/flu/

Occupational Safety and Health Facts at Your Fingertips

Want to look up an occupational safety and health fact? Check out the NIOSH Data and Statistics page! The site offers quick access to a broad range of NIOSH surveillance resources connected to research initiatives across the Institute. Use the page as a central checkpoint for the latest NIOSH surveillance data and statistical resources as well as important NIOSH historic surveillance information. /niosh/data/

New Fire Fighter Fatality Investigation Report

One career fire fighter/paramedic dies and a part-time fire fighter/paramedic is injured when caught in a residential structure flashover. /niosh/fire/reports/face201010.html

How Does NIOSH Research Impact You?

NIOSH has developed a series of products called impact sheets designed to clearly and concisely communicate the relevance and impact of its research. Several of the impact sheets feature award-winning projects that have demonstrated impact on worker safety and health in various industries as well as featured projects from the first and second decades of the National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA).


To see other new NIOSH communication products, including documents and topic pages, go to the NIOSH “What’s New” page. /niosh/whatsnew/

Call for Abstracts

Washington D. C. Health Communication Conference
Call for abstracts. Deadline for submission is December 15.

International Professional Communication Conference
Call for papers. Deadline for submission is January 5, 2011.

NORA Symposium 2011: Achieving Impact through Research and Partnerships.
Call for poster abstracts. Deadline for submission is March 9, 2011.

NIOSH National Occupational Injury Research Symposium
Call for abstracts. Deadline for submission is April 1, 2011. /niosh/noirs/2011/

Upcoming Conferences & Workshops

138th Annual Meeting and Exposition of the American Public Health Association
November 6-10, Denver, CO.

Annual National Ergonomics Conference and Exposition (ErgoExpo)
November 30-December 3, Las Vegas, NV.

Musculoskeletal Disorders and Chronic Pain Conference
February 10-12, 2011, Los Angeles, CA.

A comprehensive list of upcoming conferences can be found at /niosh/exhibits.html.

Word of the Month

WorkLife—A NIOSH program that champions efforts that promote safety and health for workers, whether they are on or off the job. /niosh/worklife/

Please send your comments and suggestions to us at

This newsletter is published monthly via email by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health to inform members of the public health community as well as interested members of the general public of Institute related news, new publications, and updates on existing programs and initiatives.